01 February 2010

Marketing Milestones in Malaysia

Malaysia Star

The college’s new campus in Petaling Jaya incorporates some unique designs 
that are both surreal and welcoming.

WITH an eye firmly fixed on the future while another makes sense of the past, IACT College chief executive officer and principal Lee Kok Leong has no qualms about acknowledging the college’s struggle to attain its rightful place among education institutions.

Having been with IACT since 1993, Lee retraces the college’s past with ease, and articulates its significant journey with gusto.

“In the 70s, advertising was still a fledgling industry in Malaysia and there was a dire shortage of talent,” he muses.

“It was so bad that people enjoyed rapid promotions in a stage of incompetency.”

In a bid to invigorate the industry, the Malaysian Advertisers Association (MAA) and the Association of Accredited Advertising Agents Malaysia (4As) formed a joint education committee to provide training for its members.

Conducted by senior managers of the MAA and 4As on a voluntary basis, the committee offered short courses and seminars that addressed subjects related to the advertising industry.

After nomadic sojourns at several newspaper premises, the two organisations bought a four-storey building to house IACT’s activities in Damansara Utama in 1993.

Registration with the Education Ministry – and several name changes – followed soon after to encapsulate the nature of the college’s services.

Offering two-and-a-half year diploma programmes, IACT began making headways as its tagline — an institution founded, endorsed and taught by industry professionals — spoke volumes.

However, the initial euphoria fizzled, and Lee is in not in denial of the college’s shortcomings in the past.

“In many ways, we were forced to make do,” he concedes.

“Due to outlook issues, some parents were concerned as to whether their children would get enough at IACT.

“The who’s who of advertising knew IACT and what we stood for, but the same did not apply to the uninitiated. And the first impressions they got did not help much.”

As effective advertising has the tendency to stop viewers in their tracks, it is a tad ironic that IACT failed to capture the same effect with their old campus.

Lee, however, harbours no remorse.

“The 4As and the MAA are two big associations looking after the needs of advertising and the advertisers respectively,” he explains.

“Addressing industrial needs by setting up IACT was already a milestone, and they were in no way obligated to maintain and expand an educational institution.”

The promised land

Good things indeed come to those who wait, and 2008 proved to be a milestone for Lee and the college.

Zencall Holdings chairman and Pos Ad Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Raymond Chew bought a majority stake in IACT — and with him came new funding and drive.

“The 4As and MAA decided that IACT could not be stuck in a rut and it was in everyone’s best interest for Chew to take over,” says Lee.

“Chew had a vision to provide affordable education — without compromising quality — to as many people as possible.”

Aware that geography had a strategic correlation with success, Chew started planning for a new campus.

The result: a brand new resort campus at Jaya One Commercial Centre in Section 13, Petaling Jaya.

A stark contrast to the IACT of old, the new campus incorporates some breathtaking designs which bear a hint of Salvador Dali.

Surreal and welcoming at the same time, visitors were greeted with plush sofas, red carpeting and futuristic lighting at the college’s campus day recently.

Campus tours allowed prospective students to get an inside look, and many were waxing lyrical after viewing the cutting-edge facilities at the college.

Former telecommunications business owner Yeo Hook Huat and his daughter Yeo Mei Quen, 18, were two of them.

“I’m very happy with what we saw, as the setup is good and the lecturers are really professional,” he said.

“I want to make sure that my daughter gets the best.”

Nodding in agreement, Mei Quen said that the tour reaffirmed her passion to venture into Animation or Graphic Design.

More, more, more

Encouraged by the turnout, Lee says that the campus day is part of IACT’s plans to reposition itself for public awareness.

“We realised that we cannot be in Nilai or Cyberjaya as our playing field was and is in Petaling Jaya,” he continues.

“It is a good central location as public transport is easily accessible. And with so many businesses around, our students won’t have a hard time securing internships and subsequent job placements.”

The longer-term goal is to set IACT apart as a city campus like the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), Australia.

A big improvement from its old premises which limited operation to around 350 students, IACT’s current facilities allow a maximum student capacity of 1,000.

However, Lee assures that the current average lecturer to student ratio of 1:20 will remain.

“IACT’s strength is the personalised attention students receive from their lecturers and it will continue to be our guarantee,” enthuses Lee.

“We are aware that student num-bers will mushroom, and plans are afoot to increase the current number of lecturers and academic heads.”

Assuring that IACT’s evolution will not be based on a policy of do-overs, Lee explains that the college’s six diploma programmes in Advertising/ Marketing communications, Mass Communication, Broadcasting, Graphic Design, Creative Multimedia and Sales and Marketing could soon be joined by degree courses.

“An Honours degree in Mass Communication is in the pipeline and these are exciting times for IACT,” he continues.

“With continuous expansion and the necessary student numbers, we hope to achieve university college status one day.”

Now, great expectations often come across as a tall order, but the folks at IACT will be quietly confident, happy that the leitmotif of a new campus has been put to rest.

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